5:29 pm - Tuesday September 25, 2018

PM’s flight was close behind

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Officials say they have no information of any Indians on board the ill-fated MH-17 flight that crashed over Ukraine on Thursday. However, Prime Minister Modi’s flight could possibly have been in the same corridor as MH-17 just a short while later.

MH-17 came down at Torez, near Shakhtersk, some 40 km from the Russia border in Ukraine after going off the radar at 1320 gmt. The PM ‘s flight Air India-001 took off from Frankfurt at 1122 gmt, and the flight time to Donetsk would be approximately 3 hours. That would have put him right over the Ukraine Flight Information Region (FIR) about an hour later.

“There was no danger to the PM’s plane, but obviously the area that they would have flown over would have been the same. The pilot would have to decide whether to divert over Russia or the Black sea instead, ” said an aviation official, who couldn’t confirm which of the options were employed.

The area has been the scene of fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels for the past few months..

All trans-europe flights used two air corridors or Flight Information Regions (FIRs) over the Ukraine- the Lviv FIR, and the Simferopol FIR. But in April this year, UN aviation agency ICAO announced that the right to provide air navigation services in international airspace over the Black Sea within Simferopol flight information region belonged exclusively to Ukraine, something Russia has contested since it now controls the Crimean region of Ukraine.

On April 3 European Aviation Safety Agency issued a safety bulletin – accompanied by recommendations from both ICAO – that airspace controlled by the Simferopol FIR should be avoided as more than one air traffic control agency controlling flights within the same airspace could have serious safety implications.

As a result, all flights have been using the Lviv FIR only, and PM Modi would have had to fly over the same corridor.

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